Thursday 11 December 2008

Croke Villas public-private partnership scheme fails

ANOTHER DUBLIN City Council public-private partnership (PPP) which was to provide the regeneration of an inner city social housing complex has collapsed.

Croke Villas, a 1960s block of 79 flats off the Ballybough Road in the north inner city, was to have been redeveloped as a complex of retail, private apartments and 36 social housing units under a PPP between Bennett Developments Ltd and the council.

The termination of the project follows the collapse this year of five PPP social housing regeneration schemes between the council and developer Bernard McNamara. The changes in the housing market meant it was no longer viable for Mr McNamara to provide social houses in exchange for land to build private housing.

In a statement last night, the council said it had been unable to conclude negotiations with Bennett Developments, who were the preferred bidder for Croke Villas, because of the "prevailing economic climate and global credit crunch".

The flats had been earmarked for redevelopment by the council for almost 10 years, but progress towards the PPP scheme began two years ago. Half of the block has been detenanted over the past 18 months in preparation for demolition but, as with O'Devaney Gardens (the Dublin 7 complex that was to have been developed by Mr McNamara), delays in the project meant the empty flats became a magnet for anti-social behaviour.

Paula Mitchell, who has lived in Croke Villas for 15 years and is a member of the regeneration group, said more than 150 men women and children now faced an uncertain future.

"People thought they'd be eating their Christmas dinner at a kitchen table instead of eating off their laps."

Families with four or five children were living in tiny one-bedroom flats. "There's one woman who is the carer for her 12-year-old grandson who's in a wheelchair. Every day, she has to leave the wheelchair in a stairwell and carry him up several flights of stairs."

The regeneration group realised in recent months there was a problem with the PPP because of the delays, Ms Mitchell said, but has only now been told the PPP has been terminated.

"The council has told us that they will go to plan B, but we never heard of a plan B and they haven't told us what that is yet."

A council taskforce established after the collapse of the NcNamara PPPs at O'Devaney Gardens, St Michael's Estate, Dominick Street, Sean McDermott Street and Infirmary Road recommended this month that the council build three of these projects out of its own resources.

Managing director of Bennett Developments Eugene Moore said he was disappointed negotiations had not concluded, but there remained a possibility they could resume. "This project may well be resurrected in the not-too-distant future," he said.

Irish Times

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